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Pirelli is introducing a new 18-inch tyre design concept to showcase the way that Formula One could look in the near future. But rather than an abstract design, this is a fully functional tyre, capable of completing demonstration runs around Silverstone during the forthcoming in-season test from next Tuesday to next Wednesday (8-9 July).

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The 18-inch tyre is an idea that Pirelli has promoted ever since the company was first announced as Formula One official tyre supplier back in 2010.  Larger wheel and tyre sizes reflect modern market trends; with the adoption of a larger size invariably leading to even greater technology transfer between Formula One tyres and road car tyres.

Pirelli would only progress this initiative if there were a genuine desire from the teams, promoter and other stakeholders to move in such a direction. This is in accordance with the Italian firm’s consistent philosophy of being a technical partner and sponsor entirely at the service of the teams and the sport, in order to benefit the spectacle as a whole.

These tyres, developed and created by Pirelli’s engineers as part of the company’s premium strategy, serve only as an example of what is possible. However, the technology is in place already to produce this type of tyre with the same standards of performance and reliability set by the current 13-inch rubber. Indeed, with a new tyre concept right at the beginning of its development curve, the possibilities are almost limitless. These include even larger sizes in future.

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A new 18-inch tyre would not be without its technical challenges to produce, although the pay-off would be increased rigidity through having less flexibility in the sidewalls. Nonetheless, this necessary movement forms an important part of the current Formula One car’s suspension and damping.

A smaller sidewall would also inevitably lead to drastically reduced branding space. In spite of this, Pirelli is completely ready and capable to move ahead with development of such a tyre should the teams wish for it to happen. And proof of this proactive capability lies in the existence of the tyres that will be circulating around Silverstone next week.

Lotus is scheduled to take a 2014 E22 out on the Silverstone Grand Prix track during next week’s test on Wednesday, equipped with one-off Pirelli P Zero 18-inch concept tyres.

Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented:

“The 13-inch tyre is no longer relevant to the everyday road user, because even an 18-inch tyre is used by standard vehicles these days. While 18-inch tyres would be a big step for Formula One, there are many other motorsport series that already use this size. So there’s scope to go even bigger than that in Formula One in years to come. In order to underline F1’s role as a test bed for future mobility solutions, we believe that it benefits everybody to have as close a link between road car tyres and competition tyres as possible: a belief we have held ever since we introduced the low profile tyre from competition to road use back in the 1970s. However, we’d like to emphasise that this move is not something that we are actively pushing for, as our role in Formula One is not to instigate changes. Instead, it’s to help teams and drivers make the most out of the equipment, regulations and resources they have at their disposal – whatever they decide that framework is going to be.”

Although they are testing the 18-inch tire, Hembery told press at the British Grand Prix that it may not be the tire of choice as a larger tire might be the way to go saying:

“We said many years ago that the larger diameter rims were something we would always go along with, but we have also said we will do what the sport wants – and that is the over-riding factor,” said Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery.

“So we thought let’s go with it. It is about aesthetics. Does it make F1 more relevant for road cars and is it a direction the sport wants to take?

“We thought it would be worthwhile to create for the F1 Commission and the Strategy Group, some images of a current F1 car with some 18-inch tyres.

“The 18-inch tyre is one solution – but going forward I think 19-inch or 20-inch tyres are the direction you want to go.”

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • MIE

    Ooh, look at those glowing brake discs!

    Sorry. I think the driving force behind what wheel size they go for in the future is just how visible the Pirelli logo (or Michelin) logo will be on the reduced sidewall. As you discussed on the podcast, it will be an interesting design challenge to get the suspension to work properly with these new lower profile tyres. But at least this is an area where the design isn’t currently over regulated.

  • Tom Firth

    Yayy !!! 18 inch wheels, the first good decision F1 has made in months :) Happy days.

  • jeff z

    A tires sidewall not only controls its side bit grip but plays a rather large roll in its forward bite. this will change off corner acceleration grip and braking grip.
    I look forward to some real photos and feedback. Interesting that they are having lotus test them, as they dont turn many laps before having issues or going off track.

    • Yeah, Paul talks at length in our recent podcast about the changes a sidewall makes to a racing car. Good stuff Jeff. :)

      • Agreed. It was a very informative segment.

  • And cooling? Heating? I seem to remember that low aspect tires heat up much more than normal tires.
    This would be good “getting heat into the tire” but blistering and “clag” production could be exacerbated.

    • Do you think this change corresponds to the ban on tire blankets being that the tires will heat up quicker, and possibly quickly enough?

  • I wonder whom Pirelli contracted for the prototype wheels; the renders look like O.Z.

    This coincides nicely with active suspension and/or FRIC to maintain ride height, and a shift in brake ducting ideas; am looking forward to Paul’s thoughts as a driver.

    • MIE

      FRIC could be banned as from Germany – http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/114881

      • Wow, what a terrible idea. From what I understand, every team save Caterham and at times Force India’s running hydraulically-linked F/R setups; I wonder what Mr. Whiting saw.

        Note, Whiting states “…we would have to consider making a report to the stewards about the non-compliance of any car fitted with a system which appears to allow the response of the suspension at either or both of the rear corners to drive the response of the suspension at either or both of the front corners (or vice versa).”

        Pretty vague, as a rear sway bar drives the front suspension response and is unsprung. It affects the aero platform indirectly as well.

        It’d be nice hearing how the offending team’s (or teams’) systems contravene 3.15.

        Banning this year could prove a significant safety hazard; understandable for ’15, especially if active suspension returns.

        • MIE

          One of the teams mentioned must have reported the issue to the FIA. Perhaps this is Christian Albers plan to get tenth place. Either that or Force India’s plan to move up the field.

          • Quick self-correction; Caterham is running a FRIC system. AMuS has a photo of Kobayashi’s crashed car, clearly showing the rear hydraulic reservoir mated to the dampers.

            Purely a guess, but I think this is somehow coming from FIA for competitiveness a la Ecclestone’s supposed Caterham tie in. It could be a team objecting due to its system’s relative ineffectiveness, but since FRIC’s been around for several years, why now?

            If the teams fail unanimity and the ban goes through this year, what a farce. Teams with little anti-dive in their front geometry are screwed.

  • dude

    I prefer the 80s when its big in the rear but thinner in front. I’m fine with these too, but it will open up aerodynamic, which could be a good thing if the rules accommodate it, or make development more expensive again.

    If Pirelli wants their tyres to be reflect modern market, it should be 20″ thin tyres with gold plated spinning rims, and the car raised 6″ from the ground. And fix the wang nose.

  • Rapierman

    Well, Pirelli is right in thinking low-profile sidewall tires are the way to go. It’s already available on some cars in the general public, so there’s already some relevancy there. I would anticipate better grip on the profile alone, much less the extra 6 inches. Of course, that means that the wheel supporting it is that much closer to the rubber. They’d better be careful with that.

  • First actual photos. Initial impression; they look “OK.”
    http://www.auto-motor-und-sport.de/bilder/18-zoll-formel-1-reifen-fotos-vom-ersten-lotus-reifentest-8453197.html

    The launch photo angles hurt it, as does the yellow paint and sparse wheel design (I was right, O.Z.). It’d look better with a busier design a la Enkei, in bare Carbon, machined alloy, or dark/black. The tiny brake discs hiding behind remind me of pedestrian road cars with aftermarket wheels; big statement masking modest performance.

    Overall, it’ll be fine. More importantly, let’s hope active suspension or a continuation of the FRIC system’s employed, so the teams can run the compliance needed. I’m sure the engineers are screaming about the unsprung weight increases. :D

  • NeilM

    The potential use of 18″ tires and the corresponding suspension redesign are relatively unimportant and don’t call for any invention.

    The biggest impact would be on brakes. F1’s hugely expensive brake technology is the direct result of having to fit inadequately sized rotors into the unwelcoming confines of a 13″ wheel barrel on a 200+ mph vehicle. And the added mass of the 2014 formula cars can’t have made that any easier. The effect on brake design and effectiveness of having another 5″ of wheel diameter to work with would be massive.

    • I’d argue the suspensions requiring significant redesign to accommodate the 18″ wheels/tires. I think the following needs be considered and/or applied:

      1.) Added compliance for sidewall jounce reduction
      2.) Negative space within the monocoque allowing for added travel
      3.) Strengthening (weight) to cope with the hinted-at 4kgs per corner added unspung weight
      4.) Perhaps philosophy changes due to proportionally-higher front v. rear grip and stronger turn-in.
      6.) New aerodynamic principles with the squared front sidewalls and consistent shape under load.

      I’d agree none of the changes need be revolutionary (although innovation would be cool), and also agree brake/ducting design needs a rethink, particularly in heating and cooling.

      I’m all for technical challenges, and think this an apt move, but question the timing and FIA’s greater plans. It’s clear IMO FIA’s hoping to attract potential manufacturers/sponsors here, gain positive press and exposure, which is a good thing; however, I wish it’d concentrate more on sport-presentation rather than regulation-juggling.

      With many moaning, with some justification I think, about this or that PR-centered change, it perhaps should’ve waited on this proposal, instead concentrating on how best to promote itself rather than hoping lures attract the money.

    • MIE

      The reason the wheels were fixed at 13″ was to control the brake disc diameter (in the Hunt/Lauda battles in the mid 1970’s the cars ran with 15″ wheels). Now that the brake disc size is also regulated, the wheels can be bigger, but there is no intention to allow the brakes to grow as well.

  • If they go with the 18 inchers, you’ll have to change the podcast logo, unless maybe Fake Charlie can give you permission to continue running the 13 inch version.

  • It is a standard change across the board for all cars so for me it doesn’t bother me from a performance perspective regarding the size of the boots.
    The knock on effect I am interested to see is the first time a front end plate from one car hits the side of a rear tyre what will happen. Will the smaller rubber area mean that we will see less punctures from front end plate impacts? When there is a puncture during a race, will we see more drivers able to effectively limp a car back to the pits with out doing as much damaged to the belly of the car in order to rejoin the race?